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Sporting injuries: What are your legal rights?


Each year, millions of Australians participate in sport. Whether it’s a hit of tennis, a game of social touch football or a few laps at the pool, sport is a great way to take care of your body and your mind.

Every fan knows that sport comes with an inherent risk of accident and injury. It’s part of the game, but the effects of a serious sporting injury can be worse than you might think. You may need to take extended time off work for your recovery, and the medical bills can quickly pile up.

A report released in February 2020 revealed that in 2016-17 almost 60,000 people were hospitalised due to injuries they've received playing sport, with one in 10 of these injuries life threatening. Men were more than twice as likely to be hospitalised than females. For both males and females, football (all codes) was the sport that most frequently led to ending up in hospital.

So what happens if you’re one of the many Australians injured while playing sport? Are you entitled to compensation to help you get your life back on track?

Keeping sports safe

Anyone with the official capacity to organise and manage sporting programs – such as sporting clubs and associations - has a duty to ensure the sport is as safe as possible for participants. If this duty is breached, and you get seriously hurt, you may be entitled to compensation.

This commonly includes circumstances where an injury arises because of:

  • An unsafe playing pitch, surface or dangerous sporting grounds
  • Faulty or defective sporting equipment
  • A referee or umpire failing to ensure the reasonable safety of the players, or
  • Inadequate supervision by a trainer or instructor.

Accepting the risk of sporting injuries

Generally speaking, sports are considered to involve obvious risks. When we voluntarily engage in sport, we know (or should know) there exists the possibility of getting hurt. Whether you’re injured from a legal rugby tackle, being hit by a cricket ball or colliding with another player, it’s accepted as part of the game.

Under the law, this gives rise to a defence for negligence known as voluntary assumption of risk. If you’re injured through the ordinary course of the game or sporting activity, you can still bring a claim for compensation. However, the defendant can argue that by partaking in the sport, you were fully aware of the risk of injury and freely chose to accept it.

Unsportsmanlike behaviour

Sometimes conduct goes beyond what’s expected of the particular sport.

If you’re hurt from an illegal tackle, an intentional punch or other dangerous behaviour that clearly falls outside the rules of the game, the voluntary assumption of risk defence can crumble. By participating in sport, you don't sign up to any and all dangerous conduct that arises, only what’s expected as an ordinary part of the game.

In these cases, the individual or body responsible for your injury may be liable to pay damages to help cover the cost of medical expenses, treatment costs and lost wages.

Claiming for a sport injury

If you’re still experiencing symptoms after sustaining your injury during sport, and another person or organisation was responsible and owed you a duty of care, you may be able to make a public liability claim.

To help establish your claim, it's recommended you collect evidence including:

  • Photographs of the injury and location where it happened.
  • Note down what happened to you and record the details of any witnesses.
  • Give your lawyer a record of the injury report you made and any response received back from those responsible.
  • Keep your medical records about the injury (including appointment dates, x-rays and medical certificates).
  • Record any expenses or lost wages as a result of your injuries.

If you’re unsure about your rights, seek legal advice as soon as possible as strict time limits may apply.

Shine Lawyers - we're here to help

If you've suffered a sporting injury, because someone else didn’t provide the appropriate level of care, and your injury is significantly serious, you may be entitled to compensation. Our lawyers are compensation experts and offer obligation-free initial consultations to discuss your legal rights. Contact us online so we can help you right wrong.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: April 25, 2021.

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